previous next


Not to omit any one of them, the yew1 is similar to these other trees in general appearance. It is of a colour, however, but slightly approaching to green, and of a slender form; of sombre and ominous aspect, and quite destitute of juice: it is the only one, too, among them all, that bears a berry. In the male tree the fruit is injurious; indeed, in Spain more particularly, the berries contain a deadly poison.2 It is an ascertained fact that travellers' vessels,3 made in Gaul of this wood, for the purpose of holding wine, have caused the death of those who used them. Sextius says, that in Greece this tree is known by the name of "smilax, "and that in Arcadia it is possessed of so active a poison, that those who sleep beneath it, or even take food4 there, are sure to meet their death from it. There are authors, also, who assert that the poisons which we call at the present day "toxica," and in which arrows are dipped, were formerly called taxica,5 from this tree. It has been discovered, also, that these poisonous qualities are quite neutralized by driving a copper nail into the wood of the tree.

1 The Taxus baccata of Linnæus. The account here given is in general very correct.

2 It is supposed that Pliny derives this notion as to the yew berry from Julius Cæsar, who says that "Cativulcus killed himself with the yew, a tree which grows in great abundance in Gaul and Germany." It is, however, now known that the berry is quite innocuous; but the leaves and shoots are destructive of animal life.

3 "Viatoria;" probably not unlike our travelling flasks and pocket-pis- tols. This statement made by Pliny is not at all improbable.

4 This statement does not deserve a serious contradiction.

5 It is not improbable, however, that τόξον, an "arrow," is of older date than "taxus," as signifying the name of the yew.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Latin (Karl Friedrich Theodor Mayhoff, 1906)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

hide References (1 total)
  • Cross-references to this page (1):
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), SABI´NI
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: